It was in the early 1980s when Norm and I decided to build our first Sukkah. Neither of us had grown up with one, and so we had no family traditions to help guide us. We had to create our own, discover our own way, and find traditions that we were comfortable with. One year we used fresh fruit to decorate the Sukkah, fruit that began to decompose over the course of the week. It seemed out of sync with the festive atmosphere we were trying to create, not to mention the waste, and so we switched to plastic fruits. Over the years we experimented with the size of the Sukkah, materials, lighting, choice of plants for schach, and decorations. It has always been a work in progress, and from year to year it changes slightly, as we do.
Each year my mother would come to our Sukkah and reminisce about her childhood in Poland, recalling how her father would insist on eating all of his meals in their Sukkah. She said that even if it was pouring, he would sit there, the rain streaming down his face, though his beard, and into his soup. That story was repeated to us each year and out of that shared memory a new tradition grew. We realized that when my mother spoke of her father it was almost as if he was with us, sitting in our Sukkah. Now, each year we go around the table and ask our guests the following question. ” If you could invite anyone to join you in the Sukkah, who would that be?” We have had kings and politicians, musicians and celebrities, family members who have passed away and family members who are just far away. Along with the Ushpizin, all of our guests, present and imaginary, make this holiday magical. Chag Sameach.
This recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food.
Prepare 1 lb. of couscous by placing grain in a large bowl. Using a total of about 2 1/2 cups of warm water, add a few tablespoons of water at a time and let it absorb into the couscous. Using your fingers, plump up couscous, breaking up any lumps. Repeat till couscous is soft but not wet. Couscous will double in bulk.
To this basic recipe add:
1 cup golden raisins, soaked in warm water for about 20 minutes, and chopped up.
1 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/4 cup sugar combined with cinnamon to taste
Shape couscous into a cone and decorate with lines of cinnamon mixed with sugar.